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Interview with Jenny Torres Sanchez and Giveaway of THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE

I'm super duper excited to share my interview with Jenny Torres Sanchez with you today. Jenny's debut novel The Downside of Being Charlie comes out from Running Press on May 22nd. As you'll see in the interview, I loved Charlie and think the story will appeal to fans of John Green and Chris Crutcher. Here's the summary from Goodreads:

Charlie is handed a crappy senior year. Despite losing thirty pounds over the summer, he still gets called “Chunks” Grisner. What’s worse, he has to share a locker with the biggest Lord of the Rings freak his school has ever seen. He also can’t figure out whether Charlotte VanderKleaton, the beautiful strawberry lip-glossed new girl, likes him the way he likes her. Oh, and then there’s his mom. She’s disappeared—again—and his dad won’t talk about it.

Somewhere between the madness, Charlie can at least find comfort in his one and only talent that just might get him out of this life-sucking place. But will he be able to hold his head above water in the meantime?


I just love me some realistic fiction and Jenny adds a great new voice to the genre. Her lovely agent, Kerry Sparks, was kind enough to send me an ARC and I'm going to pass it on to one lucky commenter. But before we get to those details, please meet the lovely author!

Hi Jenny. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Can you start us off with a bit about yourself?

Well, other than writing and reading, I love to listen to music, paint, take photographs, and hang out with my husband and kids. Also, I avoid small or crowded places. I'm extremely claustrophobic.

How did you get into writing, and more specifically for young adults?

I got into writing because I was a middle child with an older sister seven years my senior and a younger brother seven years my junior. For all intents and purposes, I was an only child and had to find ways to entertain myself. The Uniondale Public Library was down the street from my house so I’d go there and read a lot as a kid. I think this naturally led to me making up stories and writing them down. And just between us, I had a touch of the melodramatic middle child “nobody cares about me” syndrome and writing seemed to let me indulge in that wonderful self-pity.

Specifically, I got into writing for young adults when I saw the teen angst, drama, wit, and comedy that entered my classroom on a daily basis when I taught high school English. My students were a huge inspiration to me and reminded me how terrible/thrilling/awesome/and humiliating it was to be a teen. I’m always trying to capture that in my writing.

Well, I think you captured it wonderfully in your debut YA novel, The Downside of Being Charlie, which comes out next month. What has your publication journey been like and how are you feeling right about now?

The journey to publication has been difficult in that writing a novel, getting an agent, and getting a deal is a long road paved with LOTS of rejection and frustration. But it has been smooth in that my agent, editor, and publisher have been incredibly supportive, insightful, and helpful every step of the way.

Right now I feel the way you do when you just make the height requirement for the biggest, baddest roller coaster ever. You’re psyched and totally thrilled, but you also feel like puking. And a little part of you is pretty convinced you’re going to fly out of the car at the first turn and . . . well, you know. But you can’t wait.

In the story, Charlie deals with some tough issues. Weight, abandonment, bullying and more, though it's not heavy-handed. Why did you feel compelled to write this particular story? Who is Charlie to you?

I felt compelled to write Charlie’s story because I think there are a lot of teens like Charlie out there. So many of them are dealing with so many of issues. Some people might say, man, can his life suck that bad? but when I think back to my own high school days, my friends, my students, I have to say, yeah, there are plenty of kids whose lives suck that bad, and worse. They’re dealing with more than most adults can handle, and they’re dealing with it every day, by themselves, and very quietly. They become good at hiding the truth, which can be dangerous and lonely. This, I hope, is a way for them to feel less lonely. Charlie is all those kids and anyone who has felt isolated and misunderstood, and alone and overwhelmed with reality with no real understanding or knowledge or power of how to make things change.

(Anyone else get goosebumps reading that? I just love her!) Jenny, what were you like as a teenager? Did any of your own experiences make it into the novel? Any anecdotes you'd like to share?

Well, I was a peppy kind of girl . . . okay, not really. I was actually incredibly self-conscious and insecure which I played it off by scowling a lot and being all around unapproachable. Yeah, my mom was thrilled with teen me.

No specific events from my life made it into the novel, but the sense of inadequacy and, on some scale, self-loathing Charlie feels throughout the book were all feelings I dealt with as a teen. Actually, the mention of a drama student dressing up as a Smurf in the book–that really happened my senior year. But sadly, it wasn’t me.

(Speaking of teen Jenny, she's contributed to Dear Teen Me and you can read her post here.) One of the few bright spots in Charlie's life is his photography, a hobby that helps him explore his feelings. Does this reflect any particular thoughts you have on the power of art in expression and/or healing?

Oh, definitely. I think especially for people who have a tendency to be introverted or have difficulty connecting with or accepting help from others, I think art can be an incredible outlet during difficult times. I don’t think it can be a substitute for help, but I think it can help you cope.

Your voice is perfectly suited to realistic fiction. I can't tell you how excited I am to have a great new contemporary author to read. How did you find your authorial voice and that of Charlie's character?

Thanks so much, Casey. Honestly, voice is something I struggled with quite a bit at first. When I was applying to a particular MFA program (and getting repeatedly rejected), a creative writing teacher told me, the problem is you don’t seem to have a voice. You don’t know what it is. You need to find your voice! Looking back, I think I was trying too hard to sound “authorish” or “writerly” if that makes any sense. I think I found my voice when I stopped trying so hard and just wrote. Charlie’s voice seemed to come naturally, though during revisions, I did have to work on making him sound a little more “boyish.”

On a related note, there were elements of the novel that reminded me of John Green. Namely, aspects of the voice and Charlie's colorful best friend, Ahmed (Green always has a memorable side character and Ahmed is definitely that!). Was Green or any other YA author a particular influence for you?

John Green has been a huge influence because I think his books show this fantastic balance between humor and pain and love and angst and his characters are so real. I definitely aim to do that in my own writing. Another YA author that has been an influence on me is A.S. King because she hits real issues in a fearless kind of way that makes the reader stop and really think. I admire that and am a big fan of both authors.

I read on your website that you're a huge fan of music. Did you have a playlist while writing The Downside of Being Charlie? If so, do you plan to share it with fans?

I actually do have a playlist that I listened to while writing Charlie. And I will definitely post it on my website. Actually, I was supposed to do that a while back and didn’t, so I will now!

Yay! You have another book coming out in 2013 that sounds deliciously fantastic, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia. The title alone has me dying to read it. What can we expect from this next title?

I’m really excited about Frenchie. It’s a story about a girl dealing with the death of her high school crush and as she does so, contemplates life and death, talks to Emily Dickinson’s corpse, hangs out in cemeteries, and take readers on an adventure through the crazy night that changed everything. I especially hope readers connect with Frenchie because she is such a flawed, warped character who is actually a lot more normal than you (or she) would think. It’s scheduled to come out in spring of 2013.

Okay, now I really can't wait to get a copy!
Last question. Where can readers stay up-to-date on you and your books?

You can visit my website.
And my blog.
And find me on twitter @jetchez.
Oh, and Facebook.

Thank you so much for your time, Jenny, and thank you for giving us Charlie to read and love.

Thank you, Casey!

Isn't Jenny just fantastic? I hope you're all as excited as I am about Charlie. If you'd like a chance to win my ARC, please be a follower and leave a comment with your e-mail address (if it's not public). Let me know if you spread the word in any way, which will get you an extra entry. The giveaway will run until midnight on Tuesday, May 8th, and I'll have Natalie announce the winner on May 9th when she posts her interview with Kim Harrington. 

Good luck!

55 comments:

  1. Great interview Casey and Jenny. Unlike Casey, I don't read too much contemporary fiction, but this sounds fantastic. And I will confess that I was like Charlie as a teenager. It was very painful. Wish your book was out then. Good luck with your debut Jenny. Glad we could be part of it.

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  2. Awesome, I've been looking forward to reading this, so glad the release date is finally almost here!

    Love the height requirement comparison!

    jenpickrell(at)gmail(dot)com

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  3. I am always eager to read new books, especially in genres I don't normaly read, great interview. I try to block my teen years, yet I now write YA lol.

    km43458@gmail.com

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  4. Congrats to Jenny on her debut novel! Thanks for the interview, Casey - I just love me some realistic fiction too! Jenny - I liked and agreed with this: "his books show this fantastic balance between humor and pain and love and angst and his characters are so real. I definitely aim to do that in my own writing."

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  5. As an early reader of this book, I can tell you, it's the beginning of a great career! I cannot recommend it highly enough so please, please pre-order your copy now! http://www.amazon.com/Downside-Being-Charlie-Torres-Sanchez/dp/0762444010/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335370495&sr=8-1

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  6. Go, Jenny, Go! I can't wait to read Charlie's story

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  7. I LOVE contemporary fiction! I cannot wait to read this book! Thanks so much for this interview.

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  8. What an intriguing story. It sound like Jenny has taken a familiar topic and given it a new, strong, memorable voice. I'll add it to my queue.

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  9. So excited to get my hands on this book. Thanks for the great interview, Jenny!

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  10. Congrats, Jenny! Can't wait to read this one.

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  11. Looks like a great book! Thanks for the interesting interview!

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  12. Thanks so much Casey and Natalie. I'm honored and thrilled to be interviewed on Literary Rambles especially since I've been a big fan for quite a while now. This is where I found my agent!

    And thanks to everyone who commented and is looking forward to The Downside of Being Charlie! I'm so very excited to share Charlie's story with you.

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  13. I love realistic YA. Here's to Charlie's story being a big hit.

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  14. Wonderful interview! I got to meet Jenny briefly at a conference a while back after first discovering her blog. I'm so excited to read her book when it's out! :)

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  15. Loved the interview!! And as always, thanks for the great giveaway :)

    tweet:
    https://twitter.com/deadtossedwaves/status/195267800200265730

    GFC: Vivien
    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

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  16. Great interview! The Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia sounds so amazing!

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  17. Oh, and of course her new book also sounds wonderful. Nice to see a contemporary YA with a male protag!

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  18. Wow. Great interview and the book sounds fantastic. I WANT it!

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  19. Great interview and the book sounds awesome! Thanks for the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

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  20. Jenny! So good to see you here! Yup, Casey. Jenny rocks! What an awesome interview. Your debut sounds awesome! Thanks tor the opportunity to win a copy.
    Congrats!!!!!


    Martzbookz(@) sbchlobsl(dot) net

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  21. I love books that air issues & bring them out into the open.

    GFC: Mary Preston

    Email Subscriber:

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  22. To be a teenager is bad enough but to have the problems that Charlie has just makes it that much worse! This is a great book for not just teens to read but all of us with problems -- and we all know what ours are! Thanks for the chance to win this book.
    puttputt1198eve@comcast.net

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  23. Casey and Jenny,
    I look forward to reading this one. I just finished John Green's The Fault of Our Stars and I'm looking forward to reading more realistic fiction for YA. Please enter me in this giveaway. Thanks for a great interview ladies. I am sold on you Jenny, without even a peak inside the book.

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  24. I would love the chance to win and read this book! Thanks ever so much for the giveaway!
    susand1408 at googlemail dot com

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  25. This sounds awesome! I promise that if I'm not the lucky winner here, I'll go out and buy it myself. :)

    cerickson at integra dot net

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  26. I would love to read this book!I think most teens feel that they are alone in their problems and nobody would ever understand. Sounds like something for adults who lived it and teens alike.

    TKBailey
    TKBailey.SheSmiles@gmail.com

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  27. Wow. Thirty pounds in a summer. That's inspiring and so believable that the other kids his age don't credit his success. Love the premise. Great interview.

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  28. I'll definitely be looking out for this one. Tweeting about the giveaway!

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  29. Jenny, Thank you for being the voice of many voices! I look forward to reading your book!

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  30. Thank you so much for reading the interview and taking an interest in Charlie, everyone!

    Kerry, I agree! I think this is the start of a fabulous career for Jenny. I seriously CANNOT wait for Frenchie.

    And Jenny, thank you once more for letting me interview you and share your story with my readers!

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  31. Wow - Charlie sounds like a must read to me! Great combination of characteristics for a teen MC. Looking forward to reading it :)

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  32. I love your author interviews. So often they alert me to books that I hadn't heard of, but that I'd like to read.
    And yes, I'd love to win a copy!

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  33. Sounds great! coleen at coleenpatrick dot com
    And I tweeted about it :)

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  34. Lovely interview, Jenny! I am just so dang excited for you!

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  35. I'd love to win this book. I love the voice in the blurb.

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  36. I'll share on FB. tmilstein at gmail dot com

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  37. Great interview!!! I'd love to win a copy. stinalindenblatt at shaw dot ca :)

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  38. This sounds like an excellent book, Jenny. I love authors who aren't afraid to take on tough subjects. I'll be checking it out.

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  39. Charlie sounds like a great character. I am now following Jenny on twitter, checked out her website, blog, and liked the fb fan page. I am looking forward to reading The Downside of Charlie and would love to win an ARC. I will also tweet this post and post it on my facebook page.

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  40. Excellent interview. Especially loved the response to the "voice" question:

    --Looking back, I think I was trying too hard to sound “authorish” or “writerly” if that makes any sense.--

    Yes, it does make sense! I started out with the same problem years ago. It was a hard habit to kick, but writing is so much more fun now that I don't have to "fake" an authorial tone. I just get to write.

    Looking forward to reading The Downside of Being Charlie in the future!

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  41. Absolutely great interview!and Charlie seems one of those kid you can relate to. I have strong feelings about bullying, having been a victim myself, and I'd love to see how Charlie deals

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  42. Wow, I have been away from blog land for way too long. I've missed too many of your posts! :-)

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  43. Thanks for the chance to win this book.

    Email: msbookworm22(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  44. Teen me was exactly like teen you! I still do a marvelous scowl. No lie.

    This sounds awesome!

    GFC: Christina Franke
    cynicalsapphire at gmail dot com

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  45. I'd love this ARC!

    Email: novel16 at aol dot com

    http://bklovin.blogspot.com/

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  46. Thanks for the chance to win a book that sounds terrific. Great interview--I'm looking forward to keeping up with your blog.
    email: laker_f33 at yahoo dot com

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  47. Great interview!
    Would love to read this book.

    colleen at myartsite dot com

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  48. Thanks for a great interview, it is always inspiring to hear of others success so best of luck. I will post a mention on my blog http://suzannefurness.blogspot.co.uk/

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  49. Always love to hear an author's story! And now I have another book to add to my TBR list!

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  50. Sounds like a great book-sounds perfect for middle schoolers too! I'd love to win!

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  51. Wow... pls enter me for ARC giveaway...
    tweeted: https://twitter.com/miliminni/status/199765587965116416

    anubha56@gmail.com

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  52. This sounds like a great book, and thanks for the fun interview!

    deguiaj@hotmail.com

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